Calvin makes the mistake of seeing a psychiatrist, although anyone who writes for a living would tell him there is only one thing to do when you’re blocked, and that is to start writing again. Calvin never needed to write for a living. A windfall came to him essentially through no effort, and now he expects the Muse to dictate another perfect novel immediately. Turns out the shrink (Elliott Gould) is not needed because the Muse appears in the flesh and gets right to work.
Instead, Kazan and co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (of “Little Miss Sunshine“) use the existence of Ruby as a device to introduce more characters, who are entertaining as themselves and don’t really need to further the plot. These include Calvin’s mother (Annette Bening), her lover (Antonio Banderas), and his long-suffering literary agent (Steve Coogan). They all add color and humor, but the movie’s real activity is between Ruby and Calvin. The would-be novelist finds that controlling a woman by writing about her is about as easy as being that guy who keeps all the plates spinning on top of the poles.
I imagine most people seeing “Ruby Sparks” will consider it to be about a writer and his fictional creation. There may be another way to approach it. Zoe Kazan of course is an actress as well as a writer, and in her career, she must have often felt tugged this way and that by the fantasies and requirements of the (mostly) men who wrote and directed her roles. Surely one of the most dreaded things an actress can hear is, “We’ve made a few changes to your character.” But if characters have lives of their own on the page, they also take on a reality in the minds of those who portray them, and the finished character we see in a film may be more of a compromise than anyone’s personal vision.
The movie’s intriguing in its fanciful way, and there are times when both Calvin and Ruby seem uncannily like they’re undergoing revision at the hands of some uber-writer above them both. If the film has a message, and I’m not sure it does, it may be: As long as you’re alive, you’re always in rewrite.